The Green Lantern is an ambitious course correction for DC’s space cops

For more than a decade, DC’s Green Lantern and its adjacent titles have doubled down on space opera, presenting the alien police force as a cosmic army rather than a group of individual cops fighting crime in their own individual sectors. That changes with The Green Lantern, which assembles a team of superhero comic veterans—writer Grant Morrison, artist Liam Sharp, colorist Steve Oliff, and letterer Tom Orzechowski—to strip away the universe-shattering stakes and present Hal Jordan as an intergalactic lawman with a talent for his job and a strained relationship with his diminutive blue-skinned bosses.

The addition of the definite article in the title is a shout-out to a 1950 U.K. cop film, The Blue Lamp, putting the emphasis on the lantern that powers these heroes rather than a sole operative. Morrison’s story recommits to the central concept of the Green Lantern Corps, looking at how alien beings and environments change the operations of a police force. At the start of The Green Lantern #1 (DC), Morrison introduces a pair of Green Lanterns that includes a virus who stops a criminal by infecting them and emerging as a giant green booger that gets sneezed out of a spider-alien’s body. (“Floozle Flem doesn’t catch catch Floozle Flem.”) These scenes of sci-fi superhero action are overflowing with visual stimuli, and the wide array of designs and vibrant coloring play a significant part in the book’s approach to its main character.

Illustration for article titled The Green Lantern is an ambitious course correction for DC’s space cops
Image: DC Comics

The most challenging aspect of this series is making Hal Jordan a compelling character, especially when there are so many other human Green Lanterns with distinct personalities. What Morrison does is reinforce the cop rather than the pilot, spotlighting Hal’s ability to follow clues to draw accurate conclusions. A vagrant’s broken English and aversion to guacamole is enough for Hal to determine that it’s a shapeshifter from a specific sector of space. And when he needs to stop an escaped alien convict that can drastically increase its size, he relies on the law of gravity to help him take care of the criminal without needing to use his ring.

Hal Jordan is great at his job, but if he’s not working, he’s miserable. After a quickly paced opening, this first issue slows down considerably to catch up with Hal on Earth, where he lies on the ground and stares longingly at the sky. This shift occurs with a two-page spread of Hal’s profile, a visual choice that indicates a shift into more internal storytelling. Isolation and monotony are the driving forces here. Even though Hal has a new lover, there’s still a sense that he’s profoundly alone and bored until he gets called back to the force, which is when he comes alive.

The Green Lantern is part of a push this fall to creatively reinvigorate some of DC’s most prominent characters, which also includes G. Willow Wilson and Cary Nord on Wonder Woman this month and Kelly Sue DeConnick and Robson Rocha taking over Aquaman next month. DC is putting some major might behind these characters, and these are all writers who do their best work when they aren’t confined by tight editorial restraints and have room to play. This first issue is an exciting new start that highlights how well Sharp and Oliff match Morrison’s voice, and if DC gives this team freedom to continue thinking big, it could foster an artistic partnership that positions The Green Lantern as a core book for the publisher.